Author Archives: Paul Taylor

1977 digital clock kit retrospective 

I recently came across a small electronic treasure from my youth. It is a digital clock kit, circa 1977. This was the first electronics kit I ever bought and built. It might have been bought from Dick Smith Electronics although there is no DSE branding — that may have come later.  I think it cost in the order of $25. I remember it being pricey enough that I had to put a few dollars aside for a while until I had enough.

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Homebrew 40m SSB rig gets CW, keyer, break-in, AGC and metering

A couple of ‘solder sessions’ finished all the wiring, debugging and testing required to deploy my Arduino Nano keyer and SWR/power meter, and the LED LDR AGC and S-meter modules into my homebrew 40 meter SSB rig (MST Mk1 from OzQrp).  Before reassembly I sprayed the front and rear panels, and added my preferred DecaDry white lettering and a protective coat of  clear satin sealer. It’s now resplendent with all the expected features of a SSB/CW monoband portable rig.

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VK3YE’s ‘non-invasive’ LED-LDR AGC add-on

When I saw the AGC circuit by Peter Parker VK3YE, I realised it solved a problem common to many simple homebrew receivers.  You cannot automatically control the gain of a receiver with fixed gain stages. Most simple receivers do not have IF stages, let alone variable gain IFs. And the LM386 has no gain control. So it’s easy enough to sample the audio at the volume potentiometer, amplify it, rectify it for a source of AGC. But then you need a voltage controlled gain stage ( a Voltage Controlled Amplifier  or VCA).  If your receiver doesn’t have one, AGC won’t work, and you with have to either add a VCA in the receiver somewhere or replace one of the fixed gain stages with a VCA.  Until now.

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Arduino CW keyer for a BiTx or other homebrew rig

It’s been 3 years since I got my MST400 Mk 1 40 meter SSB transceiver going and started using it for SOTA activations. For those not familiar with it, it’s like a kit version of the BiTx40 from 2013. It has a similarly spec’d monoband superhet receiver, 10MHz IF, and IRF510 5 watt power stage. The circuit on a page is here. It’s been with me for nearly all of my 65 activations (over 400 SOTA activation points) around VK3. Now, with HF propagation approaching cycle lows, it is time to do what I should have done ages ago… add CW.

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Homebrew 160 meter AM/CW transmitter receiver

The VK 160 and AM SOTA event (1st April 2017) provided the deadline pressure needed to complete this build. The rig is a separate transmitter and receiver, so seeing as there are no shared modules, I shall call it a trans-receiver rather than transceiver. The designs for both transmitter and receiver are by Drew Diamond VK3XU. See Drew’s Projects Volume 3  book for full details, available from the WIA or RSGB. I posted details of the 160m AM receiver when I first built it, a year ago. At that time I also built the transmitter and power supply. I got the transmitter going but blew up the PA FET (BUZ90). During the long wait for replacements, I shelved the build and moved onto something else. Now, thanks to SOTA, it is finished.


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160m SOTA VK Challenge, 1st April 2017 (Mt Gordon VN-027)

The VK SOTA 160m and AM Day event provided the motivation I needed to finish off my VK3XU 160m trans-receiver. It is a separate crystal controlled  transmitter and receiver in the same box. The transmitter is a 30 watt class E transmitter with crystal oscillator, CMOS logic gate driver and BUZ90 FET PA. The receiver is a superhet with SA612 mixer and VFO, 455khz IF, MK484 AM detector, and TDA7052A audio stage. Further details in an earlier post. The modulator is an LM3876 that drives a backwards power transformer as the modulation transformer. Both transmitter and receiver have previously been tested, however, I blew the FET and had to wait what seemed like several months for an eBay replacement. In the mean time the project got shelved, until last week.

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On repair

My mower broke last time I used it. Payback for all the times I have mistreated it, yanked its handle, tilted it on 2 wheels over a gutter, or banged it roughly into a tree stump. The chassis rusted out where the handle attaches, so much so that the handle on the left side pulled off, taking with it a nicely rectangular chunk of rusted mower.  So I did what any self respecting man would do. I left it in the shed and ignored it.

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Hotham SOTA weekend 2017

Q: How many SOTA activators does it take to change a light globe?

A: Nine. One to alert the impending globe change (subject to weather), one to take the bulb and socket to the top of a summit, one to spot when in sight of the bulb, four to replace the bulb while logging UTC and local conditions, one to take photos as the replacement is done, and one to upload the globe replacement details into an online database and write about it all on a blog.

Nine. That’s how many VK3s spent the weekend at Peninsula ski lodge on Mt Hotham for the 2017 SOTA Hotham weekend. It was my first attendance. I met Brian VK3MCD, Peter 3PF, Alan 3FDIM, Ken 3KIM, Ron 3AFW, Glen 3YY, Allen 3ARH, Tony 3CAT and Ron and Glen’s partners for two days of SOTA activations, map reading and socialising.

 Morning of Sunday 26th Feb 2017, looking out the Peninsula lodge window south.  

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Saving an Arduino-controlled DDS VFO frequency over a power cycle

Following the success of My First DDS VFO, complete with Arduino script programming, I found myself interested in mimicking more of the features of the digital dials in ‘real’ rigs. Like dynamic incremental speed-tuning, where the tuning rate increases or decreases dynamically depending on how fast you spin the dial. More on this later. A more achievable feature is to have the band, mode and VFO come up on the frequency where you left it at the last power-down. This involves writing these parameters into the Arduino’s EEPROM, using the EEPROM library.

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Three summits on Mt Buffalo: The Hump (VK3/VE-019), The Horn (VE-014) and Mt McLeod (VE-034) 2017

The annual Australia Day holiday, Thursday January 26th 2017, set up an opportunity for a break and some alpine walking and activating.  Leaving Melbourne on Wednesday 25th I drove to Mt Buffalo and camped at Lake Catani on the Mt Buffalo plateau. Mt Buffalo is a mountain plateau (1400 meters) and national park, about 350 km north east of Melbourne.  This is a sub-alpine camp site which must be reserved ahead of arrival with Parks Victoria. There are lots of good camping spots under low snow-gums, a pristine fresh water lake that you can swim in, hot showers, no drinking water, and (apparently) a population of endemic dingoes.  Just down the road is former ski spot Dingo Dell, where I’ve ski’d many years earlier.  I had no idea that it is named after these Australian native dogs.

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